Publish and be damned

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25 April 2018 | 1:20 min read


There is one over-riding reason Facebook has managed to dominate the world’s communications. The apathy of traditional media who rolled over and accepted Facebook’s flimsy claim it’s a “platform”, not a publisher.

Why the world’s media didn’t gang up on the cuckoo in its nest is unfathomable, but it didn’t and so fake news, false representation, lies, tax dodging, abuse and bullying have become the order of the day.

Some governments are trying to challenge Facebook with fines, but they will be treated as a cost of sales as the monolith crushes all dissent.

One man has now decided enough is enough. Consumer rights campaigner, and respected financial journalist Martin Lewis is taking Facebook to court for allowing fake adverts for his services, which scammers used to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr Lewis’s followers.

Mr Lewis has never taken out adverts, anywhere. He is calling for exemplary damages, vowing to give any money he receives to back efforts to stop such scamming. As his lawyer said: “(Facebook) needs to be shown that the cost of causing misery is very high.”

In The Times this week, Facebook said: “We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts which infringe his rights and they will be removed”. Perhaps the company’s spokesperson doesn’t understand the English language.

Moreover, it’s not up to Mr Lewis to monitor Facebook’s output and have false and damaging adverts appear for two or three weeks before they are taken away. It is up to Facebook not to allow them to appear in the first place.

If The Age or the Dominion Post ran such adverts, they would be severely punished. The fact that they don’t is simply because they have experienced staff looking at ads before they appear.

One final point not yet brought up in this debate, but surely at the heart of it. Facebook recognises that it takes adverts. An advert is a paid- for message placed in or on a media for publication, whether it be print, TV or radio. So doesn’t this help make it clear that in acknowledging this, it is also a publisher?

Let us hope that Mr Lewis’s efforts lead to serious curbs on social media.


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